From education to employment

All systems are go for new space degree apprenticeship

astronaut helmet

A new degree apprenticeship in space engineering will open up more opportunities for young people to build rewarding careers in the space industry and train up the talent the sector needs to grow, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan announced today (14 July).

From spacecraft manufacturing to testing satellites, apprentices on the new Level 6 Space Systems programme will have a leading role in the development of complex, high value space hardware and ground support equipment.

The new apprenticeship will offer infinite opportunities for people to work in the UK’s world-leading space industry, including for global aerospace companies, space agencies or institutions including universities and technology research and development laboratories. 

The apprenticeship is the first of its kind at degree-level. Applications open in September, and apprentices will start work for Airbus and begin their degree training with delivery partners across the UK in September 2024. The curriculum was developed with the University of Leicester, and will be delivered with Space Park Leicester, where students will have access to specialist facilities and world-class expertise in space mission development.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said:

“As Apprenticeships Minister, I signed off the first space engineering apprenticeship. So it’s fantastic to be going a step further and officially launching the new degree-level apprenticeship ahead of September.

“It is a brilliant opportunity for young people to be at the forefront of the UK’s world-class space industry, earning money while they get a degree and unparalleled skills training. We will ensure the industry can access the talent it needs to continue to grow the economy and make history.”

Degree-level apprenticeships have grown in popularity with more than 188,000 starts since they were first introduced in 2014/15. They give people from all backgrounds the chance to gain the skills and workplace experience needed to build rewarding careers in a wide range of key sectors – such as nursing, science or engineering – while gaining a degree qualification from one of the UK’s world-leading universities. They offer a high-quality alternative to a traditional 3-year degree, with apprentices earning a median salary of over £34k after completion without incurring tuition fees.

The Government has also asked the Office for Students to invest up to £40 million over the next two years to help higher education providers offer more high-quality degree apprenticeships opportunities.

This follows plans to enhance UCAS services so students can search and apply for apprenticeships alongside traditional degrees, allowing them to see the full range of options available for the first time.

The apprenticeship will support the UK’s space sector to grow, supporting the Government’s ambition to inspire the next generations of space scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs, as set out in the National Space Strategy.

Professor Anu Ojha OBE, Engagement, International and Inspiration Director at the UK Space Agency, said:

“Space technology is vital for our daily lives, for monitoring and tackling climate change, connecting people across the world, and growing our economy. Space capabilities underpin so many of the fundamental architecture of our 21st century way of life – they are no longer a “nice to have” but a “must have”.

“That’s why we need more people than ever before to join our thriving space sector, with thousands of space jobs across the UK in some of the world’s most innovative companies and universities. This new degree level apprenticeship will help generate the stars of the future who will have a critical role in helping the UK reach its full potential.”

Ben Bridge, Chairman, Airbus Defence and Space UK said:

“As a leading industrial partner to the British government we recognise the importance of growing domestic capability and talent. Airbus has always been committed to cultivating early careers and increasing opportunities in the growing space ecosystem.

“Alongside our existing early careers programmes, this degree level apprenticeship will equip people with the skills and qualifications to further their careers in the vibrant UK space sector and help us create the industry leaders of tomorrow.”

Jennifer Coupland, chief executive of IfATE which supported expert employers to develop the apprenticeship, said:

“This will put rocket boosters under the degree apprenticeship programme.

“It’s an inspiring example of employers designing a world class training programme that will help shift the economy onto a high-skills footing. Space Systems Engineer apprentices can reach for the stars.”

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President & Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, said:

“The University of Leicester is committed to providing this exciting new Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship, which thanks to the employer trailblazer group has expanded the options open to employers and young people with a completely new kind of degree offer.

“Some of the most important space sector employers in the UK and globally have worked together, often hand-in-hand with competitors, to design a training programme that addresses their current and future skills needs, including delivery of training in new technologies and techniques that are set to transform the industry.”

The new Space Systems Engineer degree apprenticeship follows the approval in 2020 of a Level 4 Space Engineering Technician apprenticeship, which was designed to help young people gain the technical skills needed to kick start a career in space.

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